How did a lawyer, a consultant, and a food scientist co-found a regenerative marketplace

The title seems like the start of a joke, and we’ve been having fun but the problems we’re solving are definitely serious.

I’ll start by introducing my amazing co-founders and myself. I also want to give our startup axo a shout-out. Axo is that regenerative marketplace mentioned above. Axo’s directly connecting farmers to the packaged food market, we’ve been working on this for a little bit more than a year now, but let’s circle back to the introductions.

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Bulbul Jain is the one who brings sense to our crazy. She has 12+ years of experience in the food and beverage industry, specializing in operations and supply chain. In addition to holding a master’s degree in Food Science and Engineering, Bulbul is in her second year of Wharton’s MBA program (what you may call an overachiever).

Then, there’s Clara Purk, I call her “Clarita” (little Clara in Spanish). She’s the observer and the strategist of the team. She was a consultant for 6 years and realized there were extremely pending matters (global warming) she needed to address in her professional life. So she applied to business school and is now in her second year of Booth’s MBA program where she has focused on Entrepreneurship and Social Impact.

And lastly, I’ll share a bit about myself. I’m Isabel Rodriguez Garcia, I was born and raised in Mexico City. I went to Law School to later work at Big Law for 4 years. I truly love being a lawyer, but I’ve never loved anything more than food. I love how it brings people together, how it helps communities prosper, and the fact that it is indeed our best medicine… the pandemic has taught us so much, and the influence food has on our health has been the single most important learning for me.

We connected in business school. I may have forgotten to mention this because of all the food talk but I’m also in my second year of Booth’s MBA program. I came to business school with one sole purpose: to get all the tools needed to launch a company that made it easier for people to get their hands on nutrient-dense food. Lucky for me, Bulbul and Clara had similar goals and we found each other during the first 3 months of our programs. We jumped right to it — but right into what? Our goal was somewhat clear, but how were we going to get there?

We’re obviously obsessed with Kiss the Ground, so we started by reaching out to no other than the legend himself: Gabe Brown. He has been our guiding star, pointing us towards the challenges regenerative farmers are facing every day. From processing hardships to a market disconnect, we’ve been gathering tons of data about what farmers are most worried about.

On the other side, we needed to dig into what food companies were looking for when they sourced ingredients. Bulbul was our guru here, she opened our eyes to the increasing challenges food companies were facing in their supply chains. We were amazed by how the majority of food companies don’t have transparency as to where or how their ingredients are grown since there are usually 2–4 intermediaries per transaction. This left them unarmed to huge reputational risks which we’ve witnessed come to life in hundreds of headlines across the media.

After many sleepless nights of brainstorming with our data, we knew what the top challenges were and we think a marketplace that provides a self-checked verification system is the best way to introduce small regenerative farmers into the packaged food market. The reason we’re focused on the packaged food market is that we know not everyone has the privilege to cook their food, and sometimes the only thing we have access to is the convenience of packaged food. We believe this shouldn’t mean malnutrition or obesity. Not having enough time shouldn’t translate to a lack of access to nutrient-dense options.

And that’s how axo was born. Since then we’ve reached some major milestones like onboarding more than 10 farmers to our platform, and offering more than 30 regenerative ingredients! But above all, I know I speak for all the co-founders when I say that the most amazing part of this journey has been getting to meet the most revolutionary farmers and buyers. Now more than ever we are certain of how important our mission is. Stay tuned :)